Jacqueline Stewart, TCM's Jacqueline Stewart, puts Black film history into focus

Jacqueline Stewart, a film scholar, makes a valuable contribution to TCM's Black History Month. She leads discussions about Selma with David Oyelowo and highlights the contributions of Oscar Micheaux, among other pioneering filmmakers.

Jacqueline Stewart, TCM's Jacqueline Stewart, puts Black film history into focus

It is both celebratory as well as thought-provoking.

Stewart stated, "Our programming runs all the way through the 1920s to 2014. Almost a century of African American moviemaking." We see the same themes and a call to racial justice. These questions will be more complex and people will understand why they are important to raise in this country.

Stewart, a University of Chicago professor and TCM's sole and first co-host of color, honors African American filmmakers and creators with the February slatehonoring. This is only one aspect of Stewart's efforts to uphold the channel's standards.

According to Pola Changnon (general manager), focusing on Black film history only once a year "cannot be the full-stop experience of TCM."

Changnon stated, "Having Jacqueline at our table, she's an voice in driving programing selections." "She is a great pointer, pointing us to films and other experts that can bring life to these films.

Stewart, whose academic interest is in silent films and Black cinema was previously a guest on TCM before she was invited to host the "Silent Sunday Nights” showcase of shorts and domestic films.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles, named Stewart its chief artistic and programming officer in 2021. Her portfolio includes screenings, exhibitions, and outreach. Stewart is currently on sabbatical at the University of Chicago's cinema and media studies department, where she received a doctorate in English.

Last year was a great one. Stewart received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, also known as the Genius Grant. This honor is for helping to ensure that Black audiences and filmmakers are not overlooked, according to the foundation.

Her work is part of a bigger and more urgent American reassessment. She says, "We all need to think deeper about questions of social justice and racial equality" as the past few years have demonstrated.

"We had deep discussions at TCM about how it is to show classic movies at this historical moment and how we can reflect upon the legacies in those films of misrepresentation and an erasure or people of color," she stated. She also spoke out on "the sexism, homophobia, and transphobia" that are present in classic films.

TCM's last year's "Reframed" project saw Stewart and her four cohosts examine blatant racism and other demeaning elements in films like 1927's"The Jazz Singer," 1939's"Gone With the Wind," and 1961's"The Children's Hour." This movie depicts homosex relationships as shameful.

Stewart's appearances on TCM as a guest expert eventually led to her being included in the co-host line-up with Dave Karger and Alicia Malone.

Changnon stated, "We were always so impressed not only with everything she knew coming into the camera but also her grace and presence on camera and communicating about it with another host." "Not everyone can translate this kind of academic expertise for viewers.

Stewart said she is pleased with the diversity of TCM's Black History Month programming. It continues on Sundays until February 27, and includes fellow scholars Racquel Gates, Samantha Sheppard, and Samantha Sheppard.

Stewart stated, using the term "African American movies" to describe films made by or for African Americans during the first half century.

She said, "I hope people will take advantage of the chance to see them" and that they would enjoy the discussions with her.

"Oscar Micheaux, The Superhero in Black Filmmaking" airs Sunday at 9:30 PM EST. It examines the work and life of the director and producer of more than 40 silent and sound films. Oyelowo will be present on Feb. 20, 27, and 27 for presentations such as "Selma," Malcolm X, and "Black Panthers," a 1968 documentary.

"I was impressed by his deep thinking about the importance of the roles he plays. She spoke of his role as Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma '.... and the importance of stories like this for today's contemporary moment.

Stewart's writing, research, and teaching skills are well-known, with the publication of "L.A. Rebellion: Creating A New Black Cinema" prepared Stewart to broaden her audience to the film enthusiasts she has been a part of since childhood.

Stewart grew up in Chicago and would often watch late-night movies on TV with her aunt.

Stewart said that she and Stewart used to talk about movies during commercial breaks. Stewart also recalled her passion for classic movie stars. "Her fandom really rubbed of on me."

The attention of Black actors caught her eye, who were often relegated in minor roles in most Hollywood studio productions.

They may not be credited, and they are playing servants but they're there. She said that our eyes are drawn to these actors and she was always fascinated by Willie Best, Hattie McDaniel, and Theresa Harris. "I felt that even though Black people weren't at the core of the story of classical mainstream films, their presence was always there.

"I was intrigued by that presence and wanted to learn more about those people. Stewart stated that he wanted to consider the racial politics involved in presenting Black people onscreen in such a way.

Silent films fascinated her as well, and became a major focus of her studies.

Silent acting is my favorite type of acting because it doesn't rely on dialogue to tell the story. She said that actors are doing things in terms their expressions and the way they interact with one another. Silent films are "a much more sophisticated form artistic expression... they laid the foundation for everything else."

Stewart eventually combined her love for movies and the direction she received from her extended "family" of teachers in Chicago's public schools to create Stewart.

She said, "It's an education-focused family and there are a lot of expectations about how to best use the gifts and privileges you have."

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